DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. will expand its use of six-speed automatics and introduce engines that are expected to dramatically upgrade the refinement and performance of its vehicles in the next five years.
Fuel economy is expected to improve incrementally as well.
Ford is focusing its powertrain engineering in four areas: diesel engines for light-duty trucks and SUVs, higher horsepower V-8s for cars and trucks, gasoline-electric hybrids and six-speed automatic transmissions.
Here's what's on tap:
Diesel engines: At year end, Ford will replace its troubled 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel truck engine after just five model years.
In the first quarter of 2007, Ford's redesigned 2008 Super Duty trucks will be powered by a 6.4-liter diesel V-8 with a state-of-the-art piezo fuel injection system.
Ford engineers have finally resolved most of the 6.0-liter's quality issues, but the change is being made to boost power as well as comply with tightening emission regulations that take effect in January. The new engine will enable Ford to keep pace with General Motors' and Dodge's new diesel engines.
Look for the new 6.4-liter diesel, manufactured for Ford by International Truck and Engine Corp., to deliver 350 hp and around 625 pounds-feet of torque.
For light-duty trucks, such as the
F-150 and Ford Expedition, Ford may use a 4.4-liter diesel V-8, based on a smaller engine used by its Land Rover division, beginning in 2010 .
Gasoline engines: Ford's new 263-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 hits the road this fall in the 2007 Lincoln MKZ sedan. The car was called the Zephyr during the 2006 model year.
The engine architecture has been designed with future technology in mind. The engine can be mated to a hybrid transaxle, outfitted with gasoline direct injection as well as a turbocharger. Ford Powertrain Vice President Barb Samardzich said the engine can be used in rear-drive vehicles such as the Mustang.
Ford also is offering a variety of engines that operate on E85.
Big-block V-8s are on their way for such vehicles as the F-150, Expedition and Mustang. A 5.8-liter V-8 could appear in 2009. A 6.2-liter V-8 could be added for the Lincoln Mark LT pickup around the same time.
Hybrids: Bill Ford's recent decision to back off on the goal of developing capacity to assemble 250,000 gasoline-electric hybrids annually by 2010 will not slow Ford's short-term plans. The 2007 Mazda Tribute adds the same hybrid powertrain as the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner.
The next-generation hybrid transmission is being engineered by Ford and is still on track for late 2008 for the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. But Ford has not decided on where to build the second-generation gearbox. Ford could stick with its current supplier, Japan's Aisin AW, or build it in the United States.
Ford is re-evaluating plans for hybrid versions of the Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego and Edge and Lincoln MKX.
Transmissions: Six is the magic number at Ford Motor when it comes to transmission gears and improving fuel economy. Nearly all Ford cars and many of its light trucks will shift to a six-speed automatic transmission, which offers a 6 to 8 percent fuel economy gain over a four-speed automatic.
The six-speed for front-drive vehicles was co-engineered with GM. The transmission for rwd models will be produced by Ford.
A six-speed transmission will be standard in the upcoming 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers. The transmission is expected to eventually replace the six-speed automatic Ford currently purchases from Aisin for the Ford Freestyle, Five Hundred and Mercury Montego.
Once that change is made, Ford sources have said the savings per transmission will be about $1,000 per unit.
The automaker also is expanding six-speed automatic transmissions to the 2007 Ford Expedition and several other rwd trucks.
Finally, Ford is dropping the continuously variable transmission offered in the Ford Freestyle, Five Hundred and Mercury Montego at the end of the 2007 model year.
You may e-mail Richard Truett at [email protected]